Give a man a fish…

August 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

If you’re squeamish, be forewarned that this post contains some pictures of fish being gutted!

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Send a man to fish in Norway and pretty soon he’ll cry, “Uncle!  I can’t handle anymore!  Please make the fish stop!  So. Much. Seafood.”  Really.  I swear he will.

I know that we need to be concerned with overfishing, but when you go fishing in the North Sea I can almost guarantee that a little voice inside of you will say, ‘really?’  Fishing in Norway is so far removed from the version of fishing in which you carefully, patiently wait all day for a bite only to be thwarted as often as not, it’s almost comical.  It’s like the fish leap into your boat just itching to get out of the ocean.  I always feel a little as though I’m in that old Sesame Street skit where Burt and Ernie are out fishing.  “Heeeeeeeeere fishy, fishy, fishy!”  And in they come flying.

Much of my dad’s family live in Northern Norway and when we last visited them, we got to go fishing from a beautiful wooden Colin Archer sailboat.  Down went the fishing line, and moments later up came 5 or 6, 30 kg codfish at a time (well, maybe they were more like half that, but that’s still pretty huge!).  Like picking cod off of a big, wet cod bush.  And thank goodness for the abundance of fish, for though you can find all varieties of food in the markets in Norway now, for many years fish was what they had.  In a country where most of the land is rock, and if it’s not rock it’s a fjord farming was not a particularly dependable way to produce food.  So, fish was the main way people survived, complemented by cabbage and rutabagas (later potatoes), and the occasional reindeer!

In southern Norway, where our cabin is, our fishing excursions generally yield smaller fish.  But they are just as abundant.  One beautiful afternoon on our trip, my uncle took us all out on the boat to toodle around some of the islands in the fjord.  We stopped to buy some ice creams, and as we sped off, skipping across the waves, my little cousin turned his popsicle smeared face back to me (which also happened to spray my dad and a good portion of the boat with melting orange goo) and yelled “nå er det sommer!” Now it is summer!  On our way back my uncle handed my cousin and Joel some fishing lines.  Just a few minutes later both lines jerked with the telltale quiver of a catch, and we pulled in our evening supper:  10 mackerel.

When we got back to the cabin, my mother – being ever the gracious hostess – handed Joel a knife and said with a laugh, “you catch them, you get to clean them.”  A lesser man may have blanched, equivocated, tried to get out of getting his hands covered with fish guts.  But Joel jumped right in, grabbed the knife and got to work.  He was even borderline deft at it – the one quarter Norwegian courses powerfully through the veins of that boy…;)

There’s nothing like eating fish you just caught half an hour ago.  Perfectly fresh fish is completely non-fishy.  Instead of tasting fishy it just tastes, I don’t know, fish, I guess.  Therefore you don’t need to do much to improve on the flavor.  These mackerels we left whole and simply dredged them in bread crumbs and then fried them in a (somewhat indecently) large quantity of delightfully golden creamery butter.  There was no need to fillet the fish because once they were fried, you could just cut down the back, split them open and lift the spine and all the bones out in one piece.  No formal training in surgery required!  And you’re supposed to eat the fried skin.  A little sour cream and dill, boiled new potatoes, and a salad, and dinner was served.

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